A lush of pristine green foliage, muddy banks and intricate aerial roots curled up along the riverbank, a quintessential view of the beautiful mangrove islands on the Brunei River.
Yet among the green vast landscapes, the islands are filled with local legends and mysteries.
Darussalam Holdings, a local travel agency, has recently introduced its inaugural Brunei Tour Island Discovery package that lets holidaymakers spend a day unearthing the historical wonders of the sultanate’s islands by boat.
The trip is a three-hour breath-taking cruise exploring the seven island destinations along the Brunei River Heritage Trail which tour also served as a platform to create awareness on tourism perspective, as well as creating exposure on Brunei’s heritage and historical sites.
The new family-friendly inbound tour will feature exploring the beautiful island destinations along with its unique set of folklores, which feature characters such as the legendary roosters and Nakhoda Manis, among others, integrated into the histories of the many natural formations of the islands.
Departing from the Queen Elizabeth II Jetty at Kg Dato Gandi, you will embark on the Harmony Express cruise boat that can comfortably accommodate up to 30 passengers. All of the seats are equipped with safety jackets.
During the course of the cruise The Bruneian News team had the chance to explore all seven beautiful islands along the Brunei River Heritage Trail which includes Pulau Keingaran, Pulau Chermin, Pulau Baru-Baru, Lumut Lunting, Jong Batu and the largest island amongst them, Pulau Berambang.
Rich in history and folklore
Each island shares stunning natural beauty and many of the islands date back hundreds of years ago. The islands are of rich historical significance, with some of the islands still housing artefacts and archaeological finds.
During the tour, our guide touched on the island’s many unique characteristics and was very informative.
We gained a new perspective on each of the islands and also on the ecosystem around it. Our tour guide entertained us with mythology, history lessons and folklores at every stop of the island.
Our first destination was Pulau Keingaran located off the Brunei-Muara district, a picturesque island tangled in a maze of tropical vegetation teeming with life.
Not to mention, the island has long been isolated and it still remains tranquil and unspoiled until today. We were also fascinated by the stunning rock formations around the island itself.
Moreover, lying at the opposite of Pulau Keingaran is Pulau Cermin. The island is the historical site of the bloody Civil War that was triggered by a cockfight.
The 400-metre wide island is known for being the home of the 13th Sultan of Brunei, Sultan Abdul Hakkul Mubin who had ruled the country from 1660 to 1673 after killing Sultan Muhammad Ali.
According to our guide, the island is now a protected heritage site and for visitors who want to see the Royal tombs and broken pottery around the island must get permission from the Brunei Museum.
Another island with cockfighting as an integral part of its story origin is the Lumut Lunting, a small island that is located between Pulau Sibungur and Pulau Berambang.
Lumut Lunting is where history blends with mythology.
The story begins with a fight between Mutiara, a rooster belonging to Awang Sinuai, and Asmara, the opponent owned by Radin Angsuka Dewa from the Majapahit Empire.
Mutiara defeated Asmara and in a fit of anger, the King of Majapahit cursed Mutiara into an island which is now known as Lumut Lunting.
Furthermore, learning more about the historical and cultural surroundings of the islands is one of the defining features of the Brunei Tour Island Discovery.
Some of the island’s natural attractions also have folktales attached to them and Jong Batu is probably the most popular one.
Just near the Damuan river, lies the famed island that resembles a sinking ship. Jong Batu’s rich story begins with ‘Nakhoda Manis’, a Brunei version of the South East Asian folktale about retribution on an ungrateful son.
In South East Asia, these fantastical stories are passed on through generations; each country has its own version of the coastal cursed folktale. In Malaysia, it is called ‘Si Tanggang’ whereas in Indonesia it is ‘Malin Kundang’.
Natural beauty and landmark sightings
The first thing we noticed weaving in and out of the Brunei River was the beauty and vastness of the Mangrove trees. The islands are home to a variety of flora and fauna and a wide diversity of wildlife.
As we headed towards Pulau Ranggu and Pulau Luba, we got to experience nature up close.
The closer you get to the dense mangrove; you will discover a different world, far from the noise and the hustle-bustle of the city.
Only the sound of birds chirping, the rustling of the trees and the soft engine of the boat, making the entire ride peaceful and serene.
If you keep an eye on the thicket areas and the muddy flats you will catch a glimpse of the active wildlife such as kingfishers, mudskippers, hornbills and if you are lucky enough you might even get to see a family of proboscis monkeys.
Moreover, over at Pulau Luba is the mausoleum of the 16th Sultan of Brunei, Sultan Hussin Kamaluddin, known as ‘Makam Di Luba’. He was the only Sultan in Brunei to have reigned the country twice.
Another island that is known for its historical mausoleum is Brunei’s largest island, Pulau Berambang. The island is the final resting place of the 9th Sultan of Brunei, Sultan Muhammad Hassan who died in 1598.
As our boat made its way towards the Brunei River, we also got to enjoy the unbeatable towering landmark of the Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Bridge and the Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha Bridge.
During our journey, we also got to see the daily lives of local villagers and their families as we cruised around the colourful floating villages – from children riding their bikes from school to fishermen with fresh catches of the day.
Gerai Nini Mama: Good cheap food with a view
The river cruise tour lasted about two and a half hours, once out of the mangroves; we stopped at Gerai Nini Mama for some well-deserved refreshment.
The family-owned restaurant located at the heart of Kampung Ayer, first started off in the late 90s as a school cafeteria.
Now, you can enjoy their pocket-friendly food and their vibrant outdoor patio combined with the scenic waterfront view.
The simple lunch which comes as part of the tour package usually includes the restaurant’s signature soto and nasi katok and a variety of drinks to choose from.
Overall, the Brunei Tour Island Discovery is well worth the time to explore these amazing islands that combine centuries of history and culture with breath-taking natural beauty.
The tour is priced at $20 per person while infants below two years old are free of charge.
For more information on Darussalam Holdings Travel and Tour Packages contact them at 2238160 or 2238161 or follow them on Instagram @darussalamholdings for the latest updates.